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Young love

Posted by padams under Election 2008, Election 2008 Campaign strategy, Election 2008 Student articles

Matthew Pearson


Voters in Nepean-Carleton are sending Conservative Pierre Poilievre back to the House of Commons for the third time before his 30th birthday.

Poilievre, dressed in a sharp navy blue pin-stripe suit, marched into a victory party at a Barrhaven country club behind a bag-pipe player. His 120 or so supporters chanted “Pierre, Pierre” as the 29-year-old meandered his way to the front of the room with his girlfriend, Jenni Byrne, at his side.

Poilievre told the crowd his campaign took the Conservative message to voters “one door at a time.” He also acknowledged voters in the riding gave him a larger mandate than they did in the 2006 and 2004 elections.

 “You have given me more votes than I could have hoped for, you have ignored the naysayers,” he said.

With 180 of the 267 polls reporting, Elections Canada reported that Poilievre won 56 per cent of the vote. Liberal Ed Mahfouz, a former teacher, placed a distant second at 23 per cent. Green Party candidate Lori Gadzala placed third with 12 per cent and NDP candidate Phil Brown forth with 10 per cent.

Poilievre thanked Ms. Byrne, his family and supporters before congratulating his three opponents.

“All of you had the guts to put your names on the line,” he said, eliciting loud cheers from his supporters who left their seats to crowd around a podium where the incumbent was speaking.

He ended his short victory address with a quote from former Conservative prime minister John Diefenbaker, who died in 1979 — the same year he was born.

Poilievre called Nepean-Carleton voters “the backbone of this country” and said in an interview afterwards he is humbled by the result. He said voters want an energetic MP who “tells it like it is.”

“And that’s the kind of MP I will continue to be,” he said.

His approach hasn’t always kept him out of trouble.

In 2006, he was chastised for using an obscenity in a Commons committee hearing. More recently, he criticized aboriginal work ethic on the same day Prime Minister Stephen Harper was making an historic apology in the House about residential schools. He also tried to halt federal health transfers to Ontario because of what he called “the McGuinty sex-change program.”

Asked if his landslide re-election might propel him into cabinet, Poilievre demurred.

“Tonight I was appointed minister for Nepean-Carleton and that’s the only cabinet portfolio that matters to me,” he said.

“These people are relying on me to deliver. That’s an enormous responsibility and I take it very seriously,” he added.

Before the results began pouring in, Nepean-Carleton MPP Lisa McLeod sat at a table of boisterous supporters near the front of the room. She said her support for her federal counterpart is unwavering.

“There’s not a federal politician in the National Capital Region that works as hard at getting results as Pierre Poilievre,” she said, with a beaming smile.

The banquet hall lit up with applause at various points throughout the night, particularly when Conservative cabinet ministers John Baird and Tony Clement were named victors in their respective Ontario ridings.

There were also hoots and hollers when television broadcaster CTV announced Green Party leader Elizabeth May lost in her bid to unseat popular Conservative cabinet minister Peter MacKay.

 Among the mostly grey-haired supporters gathered at the victory party was a group of energetic campaign volunteers in their late teens.

 “I looked at the platforms and it made sense to me,” said Peter Pakalnis of his support for the Tories.

 Ashley Croke, 17, agreed. She comes from a Liberal family, but prefers Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. She added she doesn’t get a lot of grief from her parents.

 “They don’t always agree with my Conservative views, but they don’t denounce it in any way,” she said.

Matthew Pearson is a student in the Master of Journalism program at the School of Journalism and Communication at Carleton University.